Challenge Bathurst 2017
03 December 2017 / Story by Stewart Temesvary, Photo by Steph Williamson, Jamie Martin & Neale Bayliss
The second annual running of the Challenge Bathurst event at Mount Panorama was held from 16th November to 19th November 2017. The event comprises two days of a SuperSprint style event (Thursday and Friday) with some seriously quick vehicles. Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to regularity events, with a fastest allowed time of 2 min 36 sec.
While Andy Harris in his race-prepared NC entered in the SuperSprint event, the majority of MX-5 Club members competed in Saturday and Sunday's Regularity Events. Unfortunately the dates of the regularity event clashed with the MX-5 Club's track day at SMP South Circuit (the Interstate Challenge), so the number of members competing at Mt Panorama were down on the previous year.
The regularity competitors were divided into 5 groups of approx 50 cars per group, supposedly based on the speed of the vehicles, with Group A being the fastest cars.
Most of the regularity competitors arrived at the track on Friday so that they could do all the paperwork and scrutineering before the Saturday morning.
Saturday saw the adverse weather forecast proving accurate and rain falling most of the day, with some of the rainfall being torrential. Group A started their 20 minute familiarisation session at 8am, but during this session the officials decided to delay the running of subsequent groups until the thick fog and cloud blanketing the top of the mountain had cleared. After a delay of approximately 30 minutes the fog cleared and groups B to E started their familiarisation sessions.
Unfortunately, due to the less than ideal conditions there were numerous "red flag" stoppages throughout the day, which meant some groups struggled to get any recorded lap times. Luckily none of the MX-5s were the cause of any of these stoppages.
One incident of note was in the Group C familiarisation session when Stewart Temesvary entered the chase in front of Greg Bunn (at the bottom of Conrod Straight) and started to aquaplane on a river of water flowing across the track. Luckily for Stewart the application of full opposite lock caught the slide. See the video below.
At lunch time the officials called a special drivers briefing and announced that the third session of the day for each group (originally scheduled to be the first Trial of the competition) was being changed to a second practice session. For the safety of all the drivers it was felt that to have any competition was not fair to all drivers (when some groups had not yet recorded enough laps to allow drivers to nominate a time).
Sunday saw the competitors waking up to clear skies and ideal conditions. There were still the occasional red flag stoppage but most groups got a decent amount of track time.
The first Trial of Sunday yielded in the following club members achieving top 10 results:
- Group A - Tony King 7th
- Group C - Stewart Temesvary 1st, Glenn Thomas 5th, Ray Estreich 7th and Kevin Nokes 8th
- Group D - Jamie Martin 9th
The second Trial of Sunday yielded in the following club members achieving top 10 results:
- Group A - Tony King 8th
- Group B - Mike Kelsey 7th
- Group C - Stewart Temesvary 1st, Glenn Thomas 2nd, Ray Estreich 3rd, David Johnson 9th
- Group D - Jamie Martin 1st and Gregg Noonan 6th
The third trial for all groups was affected by a trail of oil from Skyline to the Dipper, resulting in localised yellow flags. The third Trial of Sunday yielded the following top 10 results:
- Group A - Tony King 5th
- Group C - Glenn Thomas 2nd, Ray Estreich 3rd, David Johnson 8th and Stewart Temesvary 9th
- Group D - Gregg Noonan 9th
At the end of the Sunday’s competition the total penalties from all 3 trials were added together to determine the overall results of each group. In Group C, RPM Chapter took a clean sweep of the podium with Glenn Thomas finishing 1st, Ray Estreich 2nd and Stewart Temesvary 3rd. The overall results for Group D showed Jamie Martin and Gregg Noonan finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
All drivers had a great weekend and while some were very cautious of the wet track on Saturday, others revelled in the wet. The wet track can be a great leveller for the MX-5, which in dry conditions can suffer from a lack of grunt to get up the Mountain. In the wet the great handling of the car comes to the fore and can leave other more powerful cars in their wake. To highlight this, Jamie Martin was the 205th fastest in the field out of 252 competitors in the dry on Sunday, but on Saturday he was 8th fastest outright in sector 2 in the wet.
The date for next year’s event has already been confirmed and it is pleasing that in 2018 the event will not clash with a club track day. For those who may be interested in ticking off a bucket list item be sure to keep the weekend of 17th and 18th November 2018 free.